Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BDS: Some Successes…

From: YNetNews

Many Israeli agricultural products have been recently targeted by the Israel boycott campaign: tomatoes, peppers, citrus fruit, carrots, melons, strawberries and celery. But the flowers have been the primary obsession of the divestment movement, which wants to strangle the Israeli economy.

Agrexco, Israel’s leading flower exporter, has recently declared bankruptcy, partially due to the global boycott of its produce, according to some reports. More than 20 organizations in Europe in 13 countries endorsed a boycott of Agrexco.

International pressure, boycotts and sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid government played a major role in ending its power. Modeled on that global campaign, the anti-Israel boycott movement has notched notable victories of late, while making use of an old Marxist lexicon (“imperialism,” “colonialism,” “occupation,” and “settler society”).

The first symbol of the anti-Israel economic campaign, Caterpillar, was far removed from the Western public consciousness. Yet Israeli roses were a better Jewish scapegoat, as flowers are a pillar of Israel’s economy (in the 1980s Israel became the world’s number two flower exporter. Agrexco was boycotted because it’s partially owned by the Israeli government and because the company has some farms in the Jordan Valley and in Tekoa, a settlement at the gates of the Judean desert.

Last year, Norway’s oil fund withdrew its investment from Africa-Israel and Danya Cebus citing their involvement in “settlement construction.” Just recently, the Swedish Coop has decided to terminate all purchases of Soda Stream carbonation devices. Meanwhile, the Methodist Church had passed an “anti-Israel” motion demanding a boycott of goods from “illegal” settlements. Quakers in Britain have also agreed to boycott Israeli products.

Elsewhere, major Dutch pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn, which has investments totaling 97 billion euros, has divested from almost all the Israeli companies in its portfolio (banks, telecommunication companies, construction companies and Elbit Systems.) A large Swedish pension fund also divested from Elbit over the latter’s role in building Israel’s West Bank security fence. Meanwhile, the Ethical Council of four Swedish buffer pension funds urged Motorola “to pull out of the Israeli-occupied territories in the West Bank” or face divestment.

On the cultural front, a film festival in Scotland returned funding to the Israeli Embassy after succumbing to boycott activists who threatened to picket the event. Elsewhere, some major Indian artists have announced the boycott of a show scheduled at the Tel Aviv State Museum in the spring of 2012. Dozens of music stars also endorsed the boycott this past year (Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters).

Western universities infested

And there’s more: A major boycott is going to be approved soon at the Park Slope Food Coop, a renowned cooperative in Brooklyn, affecting Israeli paprika, bath salts, vegan marshmallows and the Soda Stream seltzer machine. Norway’s governmental pension and Germany’s Deutsche Bank divested from Elbit. The flagship London outlet of beauty company Ahava has been closed after years of protest. A Scottish council recently banned Israeli books from its public libraries. Eden Springs, the major Israeli water company, will not have its contract renewed by the famous London School of Economics.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, the oldest commercial corporation in North America, also discontinued sales of Ahava. Although this decision was made for “commercial reasons”, it coincided with an aggressive campaign by several groups advocating a boycott of Ahava.

Most of the Western universities are now infested with a virulent anti-Jewish mood. Students at Edinburgh University just voted in favor of a boycott of Israel. The University of Johannesburg has cut its links with Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University. DePaul University’s Student Association approved a boycott of Sabra hummus. The French University of Aix en Provence cancelled a meeting with Israeli writer Esther Orner after a boycott by Arab authors. Alan Dershowitz recently charged that Norwegian universities are conducting “an implicit boycott of Israel.”

Several companies, primarily Swedish firm Assa Abloy, which runs Mul-T-Lock, and the partly Dutch-owned Wine Cellars, have pulled out of the Barkan industrial area, near the Israeli city of Ariel. The Spanish government disqualified Ariel University Center of Samaria from competing in the finals of the international contest between university architecture departments to build a self-sufficient house using solar power. The Norwegian EL & IT union, which represents thousands energy and telecommunications workers, has adopted a boycott of the Histadrut labor union federation.

Brazil’s largest trade union voted for the boycott and called for the suspension of Israeli-Brazilian economic agreements and military ties. French firm Veolia, which operated the light rail project in Jerusalem, sold its shares in the project. Deutsche Bahn just withdrew from the same project, with German transport Minister Peter Ramsauer offeringthe following reason for terminating the project: “Palestinian Foreign affairs Minister Riyad al-Malki, members of the German Parliament and media have criticized a project in which DB international is acting as adviser to Israel’s state-run railway.” Italian company Pizzarotti is now under pressure for the same train project.

When Italian stores last year announced the banning of Agrexco, the company’s director, Shimon Alchasov, rhetorically asked me: “Should I mark the products with a yellow star of David?” The late, great historian Raul Hilberg explained that the economic strangling of the Jews in business, education and employment was the first step in the Holocaust. Now the same “Raus mit Uns” (out with us) boycott is bleeding the State of Israel.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Natanyahu’s Magic Hat…

From Wish you Orwell (lightly edited for spelling)

Don’t die a fool

Netanyahu’s magic hat is emptying quickly. Unlike his last term, he failed in buying the students for a few slices of pizza, and his attempt to pre-empt the “stroller protest” by parents, planned for today, was particularly pathetic: He offered to lower the bus fare of a parent with a stroller by 50%. The offer was received with appropriate derision. The fact that the leader of the trade unions, lackluster Ofer Eynee, joined the protest belatedly, and the jump-on-band-wagon manoeuvre by Tzippi Livni – she was seen marching with the striking doctors today, after a silence longer than that of Ehud Barak – must have made Netanyahu sweat even more.

I’m hearing from several quarters that Netanyahu has only two rabbits left in his hat. One of them is the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who has become a sort of celebrity in Israel. It’s not at all clear this will end the protests, and the manoeuvre becomes complicated because it requires the agreement of Hamas, which, for its own part, is in no rush. After all, a new government – needing a quick boost of popularity – may well pay for Shalit. This particular rabbit, then, ought to be considered a Schrödinger: Netanyahu won’t know if it’s dead or alive until he pulls it out of the hat. Not good. He cannot afford a backfire. Not now.

The other rabbit is going to a splendid little war. Or, if not a full-fledged war, a massive operation which looks just like the real thing. This schtick rarely fails. Israeli air force planes circled over Gaza last night, and in general the IDF seems to be heating the Gaza sector in the last few weeks. And if we’ve already mentioned Ehud Barak, then it’s worth noting he flew again to the US last night, for another meeting with the American leadership. What for?

I don’t know. I do know, however, that security officials in the north have received an official warning from the government that September is going to be hot. Possibly a war, possibly against the Palestinians, possibly against the Israeli Palestinians, possibly against Hizbullah.

It is worth noting that, contrary to myth, most of Israel’s wars were propagated by it, often for a political reason. The 1956 war was a conspiracy of Shimon Peres with two declining colonial powers, France and Britain. Prior to the 1967 war, the Americans asked for time for diplomacy, but the IDF was impatient to the point of a threatened putsch, and war broke out. The attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor took place several days before a general election, which was not a coincidence. The Lebanon War of 1982 needs no explanation. Shimon Peres went to Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996, in order to win the coming elections; Being Shimon Peres, he managed to lose them by 0.4%, by shelling Qafr Qana and thereby convincing his Arab voters to stay home and not go the polls. In 2006, the IDF used a border incident – granted, a clear casus belli – in order to start a war intent to wipe the shame of defeat by Hizbullah in 2000. Needless to say, this did not work as planned. Cast Lead was the result of an Israeli wish for conflict, and rejection of Hamas’ attempt at prolonging the ceasefire. One needs a healthy dose of goodwill and bulk quantities of naiveté in order to believe it had nothing to do with the already-declared elections.

Ehud Barak has no political future worth speaking of, and he’s intelligent enough to know that, and know that he is the most hated politician in the history of the republic – so hated, nothing short of seppuku will improve his image. Even that might not do the trick, though it’s certain many people will show up for the funeral, just to make certain he’s really defunct. One wonders whether he’s in the US in order to garner support for a war, which is the only thing which will buy him more time in power. With the exception of 1956 – Eisenhower was livid by the invasion of Egypt, as the US was not consulted, and had the Hungarian crisis on its hands – every other Israeli war has received American support, even if tentative; and Israel did not go to war again without reaching an understanding with the US.

So, should a war suddenly breaks out in the next few weeks; if the northern border, or perhaps the southern, suddenly erupts, as it by its own volition; if Netanyahu makes a surprise TV appearance, pale and resolute, and inform us he ordered the IDF to start bombing Iran, to prevent it from becoming Nazi Germany – should any of this happen, don’t believe a single word you’re told. Assume that the regime is trying to save itself by a war. After all, that’s what our propaganda has been saying of the Arab rulers for years. Do you think Barak is less cynical that Nasrallah? That Netanyahu cares a fig about the citizens more than Nasser did?

One hopes that the very public warning by Meir Dagan – remember him? – and his doubts whether the current security leadership can stand up to an adventurous government will shame the military brass into blocking this grotesque idea. But army life is not conductive to common sense and to the ability to say “no” to your superiors. So, if war suddenly breaks out, our duty will be to disrupt it: Storm the Kirya (military headquarters), block entrance to Air Force bases, and basically refuse to play the part of pawns in Barak and Netanyahu’s attempt to the save the ruling economical-political oligarchy by paying in citizen’s blood. The true patriot, in such a case, will have to face down his government and army.

Let’s hope this does not happen, but let us be ready for it.